Profile: Cortec Corporation

Commercial-Industrial Energy Analysis and Predominant Use/Sales Tax Exemption Study

Environmental performance is important to Cortec Corporation. The Minnesota-based manufacturer produces and sells corrosion inhibitors that protect metal and other materials from environmental degradation. It serves industries that range from construction and electronics to oil and natural gas.

As a corporate citizen, Cortec also is committed to preventing degradation of the environment itself. It was among the first companies in Minnesota to pursue and achieve ISP 14001 certification for environmental management, and it continues to demonstrate leadership in energy and resource efficiency.

Cortec recently engaged Energy Insight, Inc., to examine energy and utility usage  at its Cambridge and White Bear Lake, Minn., production facilities as well as a third plant in Eau Claire, Wis. Services at each site included a detailed commercial energy audit, a predominant use study, and a compressed air study.

“Our primary goal in hiring Energy Insight was to reduce energy usage so we could minimize our environmental impact,” said Cortec Director of Quality Andrew Stevens. “We have converted many of our products to be environmentally safe or safer, and we like to practice what we preach in our facilities when it comes to energy. Of course, if there are things we can do to help the environment and save money at the same time, that is a double win.”

Cortec’s manufacturing processes are very energy intensive–from mixing and blending raw chemicals and converting them into corrosion inhibitor solutions in White Bear Lake to incorporating the inhibitors into plastic bags, plastic wrap, and shrink films at the company’s Cambridge blown film extrusion plant, or coating paper at the Eau Claire facility.

“We use a lot of motors, pumps, air compressors, heaters, and other large processing equipment,” Stevens said. “It made sense to have Energy Insight look at compressed air and predominant use along with energy audit recommendations to get a total picture.”

Energy Insight personnel visited each Cortec site. Teams of energy engineers and analysts conducted walk-through audits and assessed energy costs, energy usage, and building characteristics to identify energy-saving opportunities and potential capitol improvements. They cataloged every piece of energy and water drawing equipment to determine predominant uses and the percentage of utilities eligible for sales tax exemptions. They also inspected compressed air systems, using an ultrasonic probe to check couplings, hoses, tubes, fittings, regulators, and valves for leaks and pressure discrepancies.

“We identified a lot of air leaks and other low-cost measures for their compressed air system,” said Doug Eli, energy engineer with Energy Insight. “The plant personnel seemed eager to fix the leaks right away!”

This comprehensive approach identified significant opportunities for Cortec to save electricity, natural gas, and water–substantially lowering utility costs. For example, recommendations at Cortec Advanced Films in Cambridge alone could save the company 162,455 kWh of electricity (10.72% of total electric usage) and 1,425 Decatherms of natural gas (21.6% of total gas usage) for a combined annual cost savings of nearly $51,000! Energy Insight is working to identify similar savings opportunities at the White Bear Lake and Eau Claire sites.

“Cortec has a team of highly dedicated individuals who show tremendous enthusiasm toward their individual roles.” said Margit Barot, energy engineer with Energy Insight. “This makes Energy Insight’s job easy when producing recommendations as we are confident that we will get an engaged audience to our ideas who will participate in meaningful discussion to reduce their energy costs”

“I have full confidence that we will move forward on many of the recommendations,” Stevens said. “We just need to decide how to use this great information and which projects to prioritize in the budget. It has created a more internal awareness about the benefits of energy efficiency and the cost savings it can bring.”

“We are experts at making corrosion inhibitors and bringing those products to market, but we are not necessarily experts on energy engineering, so it was good to have a trusted resource like Energy Insight available,” Stevens said. “The level of customer service and professionalism they provide is outstanding–clearly everyone is on the A-team.  I heard from other (Cortec) directors and managers, ‘Wow! These folks are great!”

The respect is mutual, Senior Energy Engineer Tanuj Gulati was impressed immediately by Cortec’s environmental goals and Stevens’ commitment to pursue them.

“It is nice to work with customers like (Stevens) and Cortec who have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish,” Gulati said. “They had an action plan and we provided direction with detailed recommendations and savings calculations.”